We live in a culture that is very contract-minded. We make promises to one another, often in writing, but if one person doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, the contract is canceled. In other words, the contract can be broken if one party decides not to keep their word. We do this to protect ourselves. We don’t want to have to hold up our end of the deal if the other party is unwilling to hold up theirs.
A covenant, however, is a much deeper agreement – one that is binding. Covenants aren’t common in our culture today. We like to know that we can back out of an agreement if we’re not getting what we need or want out of it. In a marriage situation, we like to know that if our needs aren’t being met, we can choose to walk away and find someone else to meet them.
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So what’s the real difference between a covenant and a contract?
- Covenants are about what two people can give to a relationship. Contracts focus on what we can gain from the relationship.
- Covenants are much more binding and are designed to never be broken. Two people who enter into a covenant have no intention of ever getting out of it. Contracts, however, are easily broken. We enter into contracts to protect ourselves because there is a part of us that doesn’t trust the relationship.
Most people in our culture today see marriage as a contractual agreement between two people. God had other plans for marriage, however. He sees it as a covenant. The Bible tells us that the relationship between a husband and his wife was designed to be the perfect image of the relationship between Jesus and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). When we surrender our lives to Him, we are entering into a covenant relationship with Him through Christ.
Truth: God views marriage as a covenant agreement.
When we say our vows on our wedding day, we are making a covenant with our spouse before God. This is not something to be taken lightly. It’s “til death do us part” for a reason. God meant for our covenant to not only be binding but to be lifelong as well. We don’t just get married on paper or for tax purposes; two become one in the eyes of God on their wedding day. And this is a covenant that is never meant to be broken.
Truth: Jesus tells us that divorce is permissible in the case of adultery. The Law of Moses in the Old Testament also permitted divorce. But God’s original plan for marriage was for it to be permanent. (Matthew 19:7-8)
We serve a God of restoration. He can restore any marriage that is willing to surrender itself to Him and His will. We can’t control our spouses, but we can control our own actions. This is why marriage contracts don’t work. It’s easy to walk away from a marriage when you have a contract mentality. This mentality says, “They didn’t hold up their end of the agreement, so I don’t have to hold up my end either.”
When it comes to marriage, a covenant mentality keeps our hearts and minds where they need to be.
We are called to honor our covenant, even when our spouse does not. I do need to clarify that I am not talking about abuse or adultery. These are two situations that need to be dealt with carefully and with God’s guidance. I am, however, talking about the typical day-to-day marital strife that we all encounter.
Marriage is hard and requires a lot of extra patience. There will be many times where one or both spouses are not holding up their end of the agreement. Sometimes we just don’t feel like “honoring” or “cherishing” one another. These are the times when we must choose to be covenant-minded and to honor the covenant we made before God.
If you have experienced the pain of divorce, please know that all is not lost. Divorce brings great pain and strife, which is why God hates it; but He never stops loving divorced people. Whether the fault lies with you or your spouse (or both), God is longing to offer you His forgiveness and healing. He will restore your heart if you let Him. Because of your covenant with God, you can start new again.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
For more discussion on what the Bible has to say about divorce, you can click here.
Click here for a full list of posts in my “Truth About Marriage” series!
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.